Coroner releases identity of man killed on train tracks

Family of 19-year-old Palo Alto man issues a statement

A man who died on the train tracks in Palo Alto on Oct. 15 has been identified by the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's office.

Quinn Gens, 19, of Palo Alto was struck by a southbound train at about 5:40 p.m. near Charleston Road, according to Caltrain. The coroner determined the incident was a suicide.

Gens graduated from Henry M. Gunn High School in 2014.

The Gens family issued a statement on Monday:

"Our much-beloved son, and brother, ended his life on October 15th; he chose to leave this world because he could not see a future in it, regardless of our love for him. He left a message, saying he loved us all—and that he is now in a happier place," they wrote.

"We would like to thank all the people, and there were many, who made this life bearable for him. He loved you all. As his family, we please ask for privacy at this time.

"In his memory, we will be setting up a charity organization. 'Quinn Cares' will spread the donations amongst Quinn's favorite causes including, but not limited to, helping underprivileged children receive podiatric care, strabismus research, and bully prevention. We expect the website to be operational by the end of next week."

Last week, the Palo Alto Unified School District responded to Gens' death by increasing counseling support at Gunn.

Caltrain launched a "There is help" signage program and website with resources for individuals and those seeking to learn more about mental illness and suicide earlier this month. The website can be found here.

Any person who is feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal can call 1-800-784-2433 to speak with a crisis counselor. People in Santa Clara County can also call 1-855-278-4204.

Read more: How to help those in crisis

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3 people like this
Posted by Gunn Student
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 20, 2014 at 10:06 am

Thank you for the update. [Portion removed.]

Luckily, not many Gunn students are talking about this, or even know about it for that matter. I feel like the Gunn administration has taken appropriate action.

-Current Gunn Student

Like this comment
Posted by For pete's sake
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 20, 2014 at 10:19 am

[Portion removed.] And how is it if all these extra post-vention counseling resources have been speeded to Gunn as in the prior stories is it possible that Gunn students don't know about this. [Portion removed.]

13 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2014 at 11:15 am

Paly Alum is a registered user.

America is the land of opportunities - people can fail and try again and again to succeed here. Please don't give up, people. There's no better country than here.

15 people like this
Posted by Organiclaws
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 20, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Organiclaws is a registered user.

@Gunn Student - shouldn't Gunn students be talking about it? You've lost someone who was a classmate last year. It seems healthier if everyone took a moment to reflect on it, talk about it, and deal with it.

31 people like this
Posted by some1whocares
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 20, 2014 at 5:39 pm

some1whocares is a registered user.

My thoughts go out to the friends and family of all the victims who have decided to take their lives. The community supports you.

I am a Gunn graduate of 2011. I consider it a feat that I was able to leave Gunn in one piece. While there might be many positives in attending an academically rigorous school like Gunn, I found it lacking in empathy. The administration made it clear that if you were not academically inclined, then you were not welcome. Some teachers tried to reach out but ultimately, the environment was poison. It was poisoned by administrators who wanted high test scores and college admissions. The counseling was the biggest joke I have ever seen. The counselors only call in students for academic advising. I was under the impression that counselors should in interested in our mental health and our non-academic related interests. It is clear that Gunn needs to provide better counseling year round, not just when tragedy strikes. [Portion removed.]

46 people like this
Posted by dolf
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 20, 2014 at 6:46 pm

dolf is a registered user.

I am truly devastated to hear of this loss and also wanted to add on to my 2011 classmate.

Following one of the last student suicides in 2009, I was devastated and refused to go to school. I was grieving, and furious over what had kept happening. After about a week of missing classes, my teachers and the administration started being extremely concerned with how I would ever catch up after missing so much school. Meanwhile I was concerned with how me being an extremely depressed and broken teenager who was suffering so much, all that THEY were concerned about, was how I was ever going to make up the assignments I missed, rather than maybe, my mental sanity. By the end of the ordeal, I was doing it to prove a point. Here I was with a clearly broken heart, and all that they cared about were academics....I truly hope this is not the current nature of the Gunn administration.

To all the students who may be reading this: It's okay to take time for yourself if you need it, despite what they say. You deserve to be happy because after all that is what life is about...not how many homework assignments you missed.

2 people like this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2014 at 11:51 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

Heartfelt condolences to Quinn's family. From his favorite causes he sounds like a really nice person. Please post information about the charity organization in his memory.

9 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2014 at 12:21 am

Paly Alum is a registered user.

Along the lines of student stress, what I find appalling is that after the first suicide in 2009, the School Board claimed they would address stress and five years later, everything's still the same. Paly has fantastic counselors, but there is still academic stress. Web Link

From the 2009 Palo Alto online article:

"There's a sense of urgency that I would like to stress," said Kathleen Blanchard, mother of 17-year-old Jean Paul "JP" Blanchard, who died May 5, the first of three Caltrain deaths by Palo Alto students in the past four months.

"As I know in speaking with my son's friends, there are children who are hurting right now."

Blanchard, an attorney and mother of two other children in the school district, applauded the Board of Education for considering ways to improve the "social-emotional support for students" as one of its seven "focused goals" for the coming school year.

Another parent asked the board to add specific language to the goals about The proposed goals are slated to come back to the board for final approval Sept. 8.

"I don't blame the school for my son's decision, although I do also want to say that I have concerns with actions that were taken or actions that were not taken at the school level, and I've shared those concerns with (School Superintedent Kevin) Skelly and (Gunn Principal Noreen) Likins."

"I don't seek to place blame, but I want to find positive ways to help children who are in pain. It appears that most of the dialogue is taking place amongst adults and professionals, but there are important interactions that need to take place with students.

"I'm not taking anything away from empowering our professionals, but we also need to empower our students. We need to help our children feel safe about bring up their concerns, and to help them feel valued and connected."

Blanchard's sense of urgency was echoed by another parent, who told the school board she fears for her own children every time she hears a train.

"I'm very worried about my kids right now. They are hurting; I am hurting," she said, adding that she thinks academic stress is taking too great a toll on many students.

Both were responding to the district's proposed "focused goals" for 2009-2010, which include "seeking ways to improve our collective social-emotional support for students."

The goals were proposed following the death of Blanchard and the June 2 Caltrain death of Gunn senior Sonya Raymakers. Last Friday night (Aug. 21) a third Palo Alto student, 13-year-old Gunn freshman Catrina Holmes, died after stepping in front of a train.

8 people like this
Posted by frustrated mom
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 21, 2014 at 6:38 am

frustrated mom is a registered user.

Do not miss the in between the lines message from his family. This young man was bullied during his school years. I am glad the family will try to do something about it. Perhaps this time they will make changes at PAUSD in regards to bully. The disabled girl in the OCR case was the only one who has been bullied. Rest in peace, at least he is not being bullied in his new life. Sorry Quin that you were bullied. My prayers are with his family.
To others who are considering suicide: please do not do it, the families left behind go through so much pain, instead of it ask for help. There are people in and outside your family who would love to be given a chance to help you.

9 people like this
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 21, 2014 at 9:10 am

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

I just finished reading another newspaper's story about this tragedy. I am not sure all the coverage around this case has been responsible, or of the Woodside death.

[Portion removed.]

The entire community should now have a sharp intake of breath and reflect on what that means in the context of our work to protect our youth.

There is no one cause for suicide. Suicide is a complex interaction of depression, opportunity, impulse, and access of means to lethal harm. There are some things that are known to dramatically elevate suicide risk. One of them is bullying.

In 2012, the school district was found to have failed to do enough to protect a disabled student from bullying. That student was in a near age cohort to the child who died. That is, Quinn likely also attended Terman, where we already know that there were no policies or procedures in place that met the legal requirements, and that disability bullying did take place, largely unaddressed.

Another sharp intake of breath.

Our school board has spent the past three years fighting with the federal government over its handling of that case. It has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars -- our dollars -- on that endeavor. It could have and should have spent that money on preventing and addressing disability-based bullying.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2014 at 9:30 am

resident3 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 21, 2014 at 9:38 am

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

12 people like this
Posted by Mary & Vic Ojakian
a resident of University South
on Oct 21, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Mary & Vic Ojakian is a registered user.

We, too, have lost a child to suicide when he was away at college. That was almost 10 years ago now. We are so sorry for the the loss of yet another beautiful young person and for the pain this family is now going through after their tragic loss of their beloved child. Since the loss of our son we have learned many things about suicide. Someone who is having thoughts of suicide is in such overwhelming pain that they cannot think clearly. The term coined for this pain is “psychache”. In fact, survivors of a suicide attempt state they were not seeking death but wanted to kill the pain; it is that bad. Suicide is never the result of one cause. And it most often progresses from thoughts to dangerous or risky behaviors to a suicide attempt. Suicide is most often the tragic outcome of a treatable mental health condition, usually depression - not a rational choice made while in the healthiest possible state of mind. If someone is so distressed the their state is concerning, we can let them know of our concern and ask them if they are thinking of suicide. They need to know it is ok to talk about their feelings. If they are having thoughts of suicide then we can help them get to the help they need so they can find hope and alternative ways of dealing with their pain. In Santa Clara County the Suicide and Crisis Hotline is available to assist 24/7 at 1-855-278-4204. Anyone can call for advise and support.

5 people like this
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 21, 2014 at 10:27 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

The Centers for Disease Control has published a pamphlet summarizing the most recent and current research on the relationship between bullying and suicide risk. It concludes that "We know that bullying behavior and suicide-related behavior are closely related. This means youth who report any involvement with bullying behavior are more likely to report high levels of suicide-related behavior than youth who do not report any involvement with bullying behavior."

The CDC concludes that:

"The bottom-line of the most current research findings is
that being involved in bullying in any way—as a person
who bullies, a person who is bullied, or a person who
both bullies and is bullied (bully-victim)—is ONE of
several important risk factors that appears to increase
the risk of suicide among youth.

As I stated above, suicide is complex. There is no single cause. There are multiple risk factors. One of those that research has identified that raises suicide risk is bullying.

PAUSD has a problem with disability-based bullying that was identified by federal investigators. Those who are concerned about reducing suicide risk should also be concerned about ensuring that PAUSD properly addresses disability-based bullying. One step in the right direction is to discontinue efforts at denial of the problem, discontinue resisting federal findings, and discontinuing spending money on that resistance. That money should have been spent, and should now be spent, to ensure a stop to disability-based bullying in our schools.

Advocates for suicide prevention should turn their attention to reducing risk factors in our schools such as disability based bullying in addition to stigma reduction, and QPR. There are other things that would also serve suicide prevention goals and one of them, according to the CDC, is addressing bullying.

I am not suggestion either/or. I am suggesting both/and. Yet there has been much silence from the PSN/prevention community on the disability bullying issue as determined by OCR.

Read the pamphlet here: Web Link

10 people like this
Posted by recent college graduate
a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2014 at 7:26 pm

recent college graduate is a registered user.

For me, I initially could not get past the stigmas associated with depression. I attended high school in an academically competitive school district, just down the road from Paly. Of course all parents brag about their kids when given the opportunity... who doesn't? So they let it be known to everyone around them that I was going off to college to study engineering. After taking some lower division courses in college, I found out it wasn't for me and wanted to change my major to something else... thought I'd be a total failure in my parent's eyes. Thought changing my major would be an act of shame and my family would dis-own me. Around those who were close to me, I would hide behind my smile and pretend everything was normal, but I was suffering inside.

I didn't want to confide in my friends, and most definitely didn't want to tell my parents. Things got really bad, I had to do something. My 'cry for help' was a note I wrote on a dry-erase whiteboard in an outdoor hallway at school. Basically said in a few sentences that I was struggling with depression and wanted anyone who cared to email me. I wrote my note on a Sunday evening when nobody was around. By Monday afternoon alone I had 70 people reach out to me. Some offering to lend an ear, others just passing along words of encouragement. Some told me they saw my note as they passed by, others said that somebody in their class mentioned it and their class actually had a brief discussion about it. What really was shocking to me is that somebody felt so bad for me that they took a picture of my note and put it on their instagram/facebook page asking their friends to reach out to me. I was totally in shock and overwhelmed at all the strangers around campus (and beyond) who had reached out to me. Some of the students who replied to me told me they too were secretly battling depression. I told my story to a handful of the folks who replied. Eventually I even ended up meeting 2 of them face-to-face.

It wasn't easy but I ultimately told my parents I was changing my major because that's what I wanted to do. I'm still slowly repairing my relationship with them to this day.

If the stigma around depression wasn't there, I would have reached out for help sooner.

1 person likes this
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2014 at 8:28 pm

A Parent is a registered user.

Wow, recent graduate, thank you for sharing your powerful story.

JLS Mom of 2, thank you for sharing that, too, I did not know that both the bully and the bullied were at risk. All the more reason we should work to do more than prevent bullying, but also to proactively foster healthy relationships.

Because of all this discussion, I just learned today that some common asthma medications used to treat not just asthma but also allergies "The FDA warns that these drugs have been associated with behavior and mood changes, including agitation, aggression, anxiousness, dream abnormalities, hallucinations, depression, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, tremor, and suicidal thinking and behavior."
Web Link

"The leukotriene receptor antagonists are among the most prescribed drugs for the management of asthma, used both for treatment and prevention of acute asthmatic attacks. "
Web Link

These drugs are given out quite freely, long-term, and there are a lot of kids with asthma in the district, double-digit percentages.

Someone very close to me suffered a life-altering bout with a different serious mental illness because of some prescription medications where no one monitored or warned him. (I myself tried one of those popular diet supplements recently and found I had such serious emotional swings, my family was alarmed -- I sent it back, but saw no reports about it online.) Is this an area of potential risk anyone is addressing, medications? While these asthma medications are extremely common, I don't think this is the only medication with depression and suicidal thoughts as a side effect, what others are likely to be given to kids in our district?

I wonder if the mental health community has/could come up with and post online a list of those medications parents and those experiencing depression -- especially since there is such a stigma -- could cross check themselves if they are experiencing depression. The trouble with depression and other mental illness, when it's being caused by a medication or some other environmental source, is that it's experienced the same as when the problem is from an emotional source, so it's never obvious to look for these external influences that could solve the depression. It just seems like it's because of all the usual other sources. If one's family is an issue, it makes it seem like the family problems are worse, etc.

Is there a resource somewhere that people experiencing such horrible pain can at least go to work through some of the possible external sources, so that maybe it would give them hope, allow some to solve it, etc? These issues are complex, but maybe reducing some of the factors will help even those for whom several factors are involved. I know from my relative's experience that it's very rare for even the prescribing doctor to put two and two together, and very easy for the person to blame themselves.

8 people like this
Posted by dolfsmom
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 22, 2014 at 10:39 pm

dolfsmom is a registered user.

PLEASE BE KIND to your classmates. If you see someone eating lunch by themselves, invite them to join you. Reach out. Talk to someone you don't know when walking to class. Don't whisper and laugh at an individual when you are in a group - that feels horrible (all girls know how that feels I think). Know that you have the power to prevent the next suicide just by being awake and kind. If you see someone being picked on, laughed at or bullied, STAND UP AND OPEN YOUR MOUTH. Don't tolerate it any more. Make it be cool to defend the weak, not to pick on them. Embrace the different. Think how boring it would be if everyone was the same. Respect those that dare to stand out and be different.
Friends don't let classmates take their own lives. Be aware, tune in and know who is in trouble and get them help.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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